Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A players who could soon get promoted to the Major Leagues

Who are some players currently at Triple-A who could soon get promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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Ji Hwan Bae

Speedy utility man Ji Hwan Bae played semi-frequently for the Pirates in 2023. However, he struggled greatly. In 371 plate appearances, Bae hit .231/.296/.311. While Bae was a plus on the basepaths, he wasn’t able to fully capitalize on his speed given his sub-.300 OBP. He had an okay 8.1% walk rate and 24.8% strikeout rate but hit for very little power. Bae had a sub.-100 isolated slugging percentage and went 337 straight plate appearances without a home run. Overall, he had just a 66 wRC+.

Bae spent a good portion of his season in center field for the Pirates, where he displayed solid defense and improved route running.

At the end of the season, he only had -1 defensive run saved, but a +2.8 UZR/150 and +3 outs above average. His defense at second base, however, wasn’t great, and he had -6 DRS and -2 OAA.

Bae had a chance to secure a Major League roster spot to open the year and got off to a hot start in Spring Training. But he suffered a hip injury and was placed on the IL in just the first week of March. Bae, now in rehab, has gotten off to a great start. He has 35 plate appearances between Bradenton and Indy, where he has 13 hits with the same amount of strikeouts to walks with seven each. Bae also hit a home run nearly a full calendar year from his last home run, which was a dramatic walk-off against the Houston Astros.

Now, here’s something that stands out about Bae’s metrics. He has a 95.3 MPH exit velocity and a 55.6% hard-hit rate. Bae had just an 88.1 MPH exit velo and 36.8% hard-hit rate in the Majors last season. His launch angle is also up significantly from 1.1 degrees to 8.1 degrees. It might not seem like much, but a batted ball with an 89 MPH exit velo and two-degree launch angle results in a hit about 34.3% of the time, while a batted ball with a 95 MPH exit velo and eight-degree launch angle goes for a hit 61.3% of the time. Bae is also rarely swinging and missing. He has a whiff rate of just 16.7%.

Now is this a microcosm of a small sample size? Probably. But if Bae can translate even a fraction of that improved power to the Major Leagues. A six degree launch angle with an 89 MPH exit velocity would be a massive improvement from last year. I don’t know who at the Pirates needs to hear this right now, but more hard-hit baseballs plus fewer swings and misses plus lifting the ball is a combination that can be very successful.